Road Warriors outlast Hotshots in wild semis opener
NLEX outsteadied Magnolia down the stretch to win 88-87 in a highly intense Game 1 of the 2018 PBA Philippine Cup semifinals Saturday night at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Rookie Kiefer Ravena made big plays in crunch time, setting up Alex Mallari for the go-ahead 3-pointer, 86-84, before securing a crucial rebound and sinking two free throws in the final 14.4 seconds.
He also had a key steal after the Road Warriors threw away a crucial inbound less than five ticks to go that preserved the victory.
“As I said before this game, we’re just in this for the ride. We’re enjoying our adventure. This is an adventure for us,” said NLEX head coach Yeng Guiao. “As a team, it’s the first time we made the semifinals. We’re like gatecrashers here in the semis. We weren’t invited but we’re still here.”
“We knew coming into this game that it would be a defensive matchup so we had to fine-tune our execution and we really worked hard on our execution,” added Guiao, whose team committed only 13 turnovers while forcing the Hotshots to commit 22.
Game 2 is on Monday night at Mall of Asia Arena.
Ravena scored 11 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter but he wasn’t the lone hero for the Road Warriors when it mattered most.
Veteran guard Cyrus Baguio also thrived in the clutch, scoring eight of his 17 points while Mallari finished with 14 points against his former team where he won four championship including a Grand Slam in 2014.
NLEX hit big shots and locked down on defense as well, limiting Paul Lee, who only had eight points on 3-of-10 shooting from the field and five turnovers in close to 27 minutes of action.
Lee, whom Guiao called as the Road Warriors’ “biggest problem” heading into the best-of-seven semis, was held scoreless in the first half.
With Lee in check, Ian Sangalang and PJ Simon carried the Hotshots on the offensive end with 21 and 20 points, respectively.
The offense picked up in the third quarter after both teams combined for only 59 points in the first half with NLEX leading, 32-27.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.